Conservative Judaism to 'rebrand' as numbers drop

After losing one third of its membership in less than three decades, US Conservative Movement hopes team of PR agents can save it.

Ari Soffer ,

Conservative Movement hopes to attract new members and reverse its rapid decline
Conservative Movement hopes to attract new members and reverse its rapid decline
Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

The American Conservative Judaism Movement is embarking on a major PR campaign as it attempts to counter rapidly dwindling numbers in the United States.

Conservative Judaism has tended to market itself as something "in between" halakhic or Orthodox Judaism, and the Reform Movement. Despite its name, Conservative Judaism is decidedly liberal; it has "annulled" the Torah's ban on homosexual relationships and even conducts gay marriages, for example. Most Conservative leaders also reject the Divine nature of the Torah. On the other hand, unlike Reform Judaism, the Conservative Movement still does not sanction intermarriage.

However, in recent decades the Conservative Movement has come to be seen as "neither here nor there," and its numbers have plummeted by more than a third in just 25 years, due both to high assimilation rates (which are even higher among Reform Jews) and the loss of members to other denominations.

Today roughly one million American Jews identify with the Conservative Movement.

According to the New York Post, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism is now seeking to rebrand, hiring a large team of PR experts in an effort to turn the tide.

As part of those efforts, the New York-based Good Omen PR agency is developing a much-elusive "position statement" to better define where Conservative Judaism sits on core issues. It is reportedly interviewing hundreds of Conservative Jews to survey them on their views of the Conservative Movement and how they would define it.

According Steven M. Cohen, a professor of Jewish social policy at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, the Conservative Movement can be defined as "a culturally demanding version of Judaism."

But while its rebranding campaign might have some positive impact, he told the NYP he didn't think it would save the movement.

"The real cause of [community] shrinkage is intermarriage and the decline of ethnic attachment among American Jews," he said.

According to statistics, while the Reform and Conservative movements are the two largest Jewish denominations respectively, both are shrinking rapidly, while the only Jewish denomination experiencing growth in the US is Orthodox Judaism.




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